How the Pandemic Impacted Artists in 2020

From the unsurprising losses to the unexpected gains, here’s how your fellow artists are faring after a year of canceled shows and stay-at-home orders.

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We’re a year into COVID-19. Can you believe it? This global pandemic has been collectively traumatizing for too many reasons to name, which is probably why so many people report feeling like the year has both gone by in a blip and lasted an eternity.

The crisis has also affected artists in very specific ways. On top of jobs lost, bills unpaid, and daycare or school put on hold, artists endured art shows being canceled, studio space becoming unaffordable, creativity plummeting to new lows, and more. (This isn’t to mention the worry, stress, and grief involved in navigating this “new normal.”)

How did the pandemic impact your art practice in 2020?

Recently, in an insightful Art Bound podcast episode, Balancing Art & Life, artists Kuzana Ogg and Monique Crine shared their secrets to staying creative during the pandemic and balancing art-making time with other responsibilities. Then we asked you, dear readers, how you’ve been navigating life as an artist during this past year and how the pandemic has impacted your art practice. You were gut-wrenchingly honest. From the unsurprising losses to the unexpected gains, here’s how your fellow artists are faring after a year of canceled shows and stay-at-home orders.

As you read through these responses, feel free to chime in with your experiences in the comments below. (And if you haven’t already, check out these COVID-19 artist relief emergency funds and resources.)

Lack of Enthusiasm

There’s no inspiration left in me. — Enrique C

It’s hard to get to painting when I feel so much anxiety, and sometimes fear. I tend to stay busy with the everyday stuff instead. I need to feel somewhat Zen-ish to have the desire to paint. Sigh. — Laurie E

I am not meeting with my painting group. Some days it is hard to get the enthusiasm going to paint. — Cindy R

I am not as productive. I feel a low undercurrent of unrest with all that is happening re: COVID. It’s not a conscious thought, just a depressing vibe that creates disquiet. I allow myself to feel it, then wait for it to pass and work on something joyful. That’s the best I can do as we enter into round two. — Vicki L

Ceramics? Yes, amazing. But painting? Not this year. I have no inspiration or enthusiasm for it, sadly. — Jaki P

I’m selling some but creating nothing worth putting a frame on. — Randy E

A Welcome Distraction

My painting improved in 2020. I think I’ve painted at least 30 pieces. Painting took my mind off what has been happening. — Sally T

It is what has gotten me through all of this. — Barbara P

I am grateful that I can paint, so many of my friends do not know what to do with their time. I always paint whenever I can. I love the online courses from all over the world. — Adele P

I do miss going to show openings, meeting and chatting with other artists. But I’ve gotten a lot of decent work done and the focus on all that painting has been a helpful distraction. — Carmella T

Cancelation Station

I could not do my annual art tour of my studio. — Michael U

Not one in-person show held. However, my two Etsy shops did okay, considering. — Pam C

More time to paint, which I loved, so I produced more. Our art group challenged each other to complete a weekly 8×10. I had more commissions than last year, too. Sold more prints than usual. Our art group found a safe way to continue classes together. However, I really missed the art shows. Galleries were closed and a trip to Italy for an art show was cancelled. — Brenda B

Normally, I teach many plein air painting workshops during the course of the year. This year’s schedule was canceled, canceled, canceled! But this gave me more time for my private practice of painting, and as I’ve been looking for more time to paint for myself, this was a plus. What’s more, shortly after the weight of the pandemic bore down on us, I started going out afternoons with my gouache and sketchbook, making daily sketches of the canyon behind my studio. I’ve completed three of what I’m calling my Pandemic Sketchbooks, Vols 1-3. These little hikes into the canyon have been a great solace! — Michael J

A New Focus

I have had a lot of trouble creating when in grief from loss. So I have worked more on the administrative part of my business, and connecting with my collectors. — Arte B

I went to an art university. — Dawn E

I decided to retire from the business of art and create only for myself and to learn. — Mary M

I realized how much calm it brings to my life. It makes me complete. — JoJo

More Time to Paint

All classes and workshops are virtual and not in person. And I miss my weekly painting group. But because I stay home more, I paint more. — Anne M

As an art student, I lost valuable studio time and could only go two days a week. On the plus side, I was able to create a studio space in my apartment so that I can paint. I had more time to paint but less access to resources I sometimes would need. — Trisha Q

I am one of the lucky ones and the pandemic has resulted in more time for art. All my art classes have been virtual and eliminated many hours of driving, which has allowed me to do classes on the other side of the country. The increasing prominence of Zoom and its like, which I originally thought (last year) would take forever to be widely used, is a game-changer. — Carr G

Regular work subdued, but I’m painting my brains out. This past year I’ve been very prolific with my art. — Victor

I have not been able to teach watercolor classes due to COVID, but I have gained so much quiet time in my own studio to devote time to my painting. Its the best thing. —Jeanne O

Increased Commissions

I’ve had more commissions, actually, from people who wanted to support small businesses like artists, while almost all shows were cancelled. It’s been hard to create art in general because I was closer to being a full-time artist, and this feels like it puts me back three years, not one. — Anna B

It actually created new income from my paintings. I painted as a hobby, then retrenchment at work and quarantine gave me more time and ideas so I started selling and now have several commissioned pieces to work on. — Elmer E

Lots more portrait commissions, less free time to learn. Exhausting in a good way. — Robin G

Creative Reinvention

I started drawing again. — Steel V

It has allowed me time to invest in creativity and nature, and coffee. I took up abstract painting as a new form of expression. — Corrie

It changed my subject matter. I was doing a ton of mountain and climbing theme work and am now working on portraits and the figure. It was actually a good thing that happened to me. — Christine K

Started painting (which I wanted to do for years) and improved greatly because of the pandemic. — Kristen A

I started adding more introspective quotes and hopeful thoughts into my paintings. It’s been a time of reinventing the self as we’ve been alone with ourselves for months now. — Bethany C

Looking Ahead

As we approach this weird anniversary of sorts, and as a vaccine enters the scene, it’s starting to feel like we can start to hope again. Even for the most skeptical among us, it feels like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel — even if it’s on the distant horizon. No matter how the next year unfolds, we hope to provide a creative space for you to find inspiration and connect with fellow artists. Happy creating, friends.

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3 comments on “How the Pandemic Impacted Artists in 2020

  1. Ariana Chapman says:

    I became interested in art at a young age, and until last year I mostly worked with pencil. Then, with all that happened in 2020, I found that it wasn’t just something to do when I was bored or needed a stress reliever. It did help me cope with everything that was happening, yes, but I also realized that I truly enjoyed creating something beautiful. I started working with not just pencil, but acrylic, and pastels. I grew so much last year and have continued to do so thanks to all my inspiration. Art is no longer just for me or my related family to enjoy, but it is also for all my friends and other people too. I now have started selling and giving them away. When I see the happiness in other peoples faces, I know that I’m doing something right. It took a year filled with pain and bonding with others, to bring out what was already hidden inside just waiting for the right time. As we continue into this new year, find what inspires you, and share it with the world. In turn, you may inspire them in ways you never expected. God bless you all and stay safe.

  2. Sandy Bock says:

    I am a mostly pet portrait artist and was surprised I got any commissions in 2020, but I actually got more than usual. I got many pet and people portrait commissions. I started to realize, that all the time spent at home was growing people’s appreciation of their human and fur family and wanted keepsakes and memorials . For 2021, I am adding house portraits to my services. It’s definitely a positive take away to see people reconnecting with their family legacy and allowing me to help preserve it through art.

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